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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources



Grades 11-12

Writing W.11-12.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

This standard is all about helping students determine the context for their writing…that is, understand the task, establish the purpose, and consider the audience when determining how to best organize and develop a piece of writing. Students are expected to adhere to the stylistic conventions and expectations of their task or genre. They must select information and develop a structure that is appropriate for their audience and that will help them accomplish their purpose.

Identifying the writing context should be the first thing students do when given a writing assignment. Then, throughout the revision and editing process, students should come back to their context and reflect. Are the choices they’ve made right for their audience? Are they accomplishing their purpose? These questions should help students revise effectively. The example below demonstrates how these elements are important to student writing.

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Assignment Example

You’ve been asked to write an analysis in which you discuss the lesser characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. You know that very often it is those characters who, while playing limited roles, have the greatest impact on the behaviors or insights of the major characters. Specifically, here in Hamlet, you know your teacher is describing Rosenkrantz, Guildenstern, Horatio, and the Ghost. That’s transparent.

How do these four characters influence Hamlet’s actions and growth or change throughout the play? This question will be answered by taking a look at each minor character in terms of his actions and words. To shape your essay, you might look at each character individually, except in the case of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern since they are almost identical characters. You’ll write about what specific actions they take in the play. How conversations and encounters with Hamlet affect him. How these relationships shape Hamlet’s beliefs and move him to action. Then, you’ll progress to the next lesser character and repeat.

Horatio, for example, does not appear often, but when he does, his conversation always causes Hamlet to re-consider his stance on a variety of topics. Over and over again, and we’ll let you count the ways, you’ll point out that these interactions move Hamlet to take control of his situation. This brings us, then, to the Ghost. How do his four, brief appearances in the play convince Hamlet to confront King Claudius though Hamlet is so hesitant to risk his life in seeking revenge? It is these father-to-son chit-chats that push Hamlet to strike “in the name of action.”

So, moving from one character to another, setting up the scenes and dialogue, and examining the impact of these on Hamlet, help establish a structure for your essay. Of course, keep in mind that this is an academic paper, and you’re writing for your classmates and teacher. You’re expected to establish and keep a scholarly tone as you create a draft. As Polonius warns his son, Laertes, to “give thy thoughts no tongue,” he would advise you to give your thoughts some ink.

Hamlet finally found his way in dealing with his dad’s murder. He learned about who he was through the other minor characters of the play. Similarly, you must find your persona. You do this by combining personality, voice, word choice (diction), syntax (arrangement of words within a sentence), and perception of audience. Remember, “to thine own self be true.”

Drill 1

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words.

1. Coherent writing is work that is ____________ in nature.
2. Writer’s ______________ combines personality, voice, diction, syntax, and perception of audience.
3. All of these, the continued expression and addition of ideas, examples, and interpretation, refer to the ________________ of a piece of writing.
4. _________________ refers to the structure or order of information within a passage.
5. Re-checking these three items, ______________, ________________, and ______________ constantly during the writing process is a must.


1. Logical – Coherent means clear and easily understood; logic is a key ingredient.
2. Style – You have to make stylistic choices that are appropriate for your audience, task, purpose, and topic.
3. Development – Development is how your ideas come together and add up to a coherent essay.
4. Organization – Be sure to choose a logical organization for your writing.
5. Task, purpose, audience – Think of this as your revision checklist. Are you still on track to accomplish your purpose for your audience within a given task or genre?